In addition to their more commercial Hallmark Channel principal (an entity that has tripled in the few years – I’ve followed its growth), the Hallmark brand first began producing films (some sixty plus years ago) under the “Hall of Fame” branding. In fact, way back on a December’s eve in 1951, their very first film aired, which happened to be an opera.
Those films once upon a time found a home on CBS channels before jumping to ABC for a brief stint and now, as of 2014, they too are housed under the Hallmark Channel umbrella. In those years, they have produced beautiful originals based on true stories or re-tooled classics for the 21st century, all colorfully brought alive by some amazing talent. In addition to that, they’ve stacked up 81 Emmy Awards and strive to present “original films that entertain, enlighten and inspire.” Having seen many of their productions, I can attest to the truth of this statement.
Since I began watching this line of films, among them I have found favorites and even amassed a small but well-rounded collection of them on DVD. From films we easily remember (and perhaps even place among our classic favorites) to titles that starred Hollywood royalty before they were famous, Hallmark Hall of Fame has given us quality entertainment for many years. Below is a round-up of a few of theses films. Among them are those I still remember fondly, while some deserve a watch simply for the cast. And when the occasion calls for it, I settle in for a re-watch of the titles that made it onto my essential favorites list.
Fifteen Hallmark Hall of Fame Films to Watch
Listed alphabetically from A-Z
1. Beyond the Blackboard
Air Date: April 2011
Inspired by a true story, Emily VanCamp starred in this poignant story about a first-time teacher who inspires and changes the lives of her students, all of whom are taught out of a homeless shelter.
2. The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
Air Date: April 2009
Anna Paquin stars in the title role as a social worker who helped the underground effort to smuggle Jews out of Germany. Aside from Anna, Marcia Gay Harden co-stars and obscure or not, we see Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) appear.
3. Follow the Stars Home
Air Date: May 2001
One of the sweetest family films I’ve seen to date, this one is about a mother’s choice to have and raise her child who she learns is going to have severe disabilities. There are a lot of things that happen between the mother finding this out and the first 6 years of her daughter’s life, but the romance and a nice relationship developing between the young daughter and her companion are the driving forces. Kimberly Williams, Campbell Scott and Eric Close headline plus a young Alexa PenaVega.
4. In My Dreams
Air Date: April 2014
Sometimes a sweet romantic drama such as this is just what we need for a Saturday night movie. If you don’t mind a touch of the supernatural (the plot involves coins tossed into a fountain and unexplained dreams) and a film that keeps its leading male and female character apart for the majority, this one is a gem.
5. The Locket
Air Date: December 2002
Though it’s been years since last I watched this, it’s engrained in my memory as a sweet story of love and loss. Starring the great Vanessa Redgrave, it’s another story that intertwines two stories in a satisfying payoff when the ending rolls around.
6. The Lost Valentine
Air Date: January 2011
Anyone who likes period dramas will appreciate this one, and those of us who prefer modern love stories will also find a charming story in this production. Entwined are two romances, decades apart with an emotional payoff that is sure to leave tears – both of bittersweet variety and joyful feelings.
7. The Love Letter
Air Date: February 1998
One of the best costume dramas in the line, this is one story that multiple viewings later, became endearing. It switches off between the modern world and the Civil War, bringing us back to a quaint albeit confusing time in history. Plus, it’s all about the romance.
8. Loving Leah
Air Date: January 2009
Unconventional at best, this romantic drama is… unique. A Jewish woman is left a widow, and tradition dictates that her husband’s brother marry his widowed sister-in-law, Leah. What begins as a plan to dissolve the tradition ends up in an awkward marriage that encounters the challenges anchored with one’s faith and the others lack of it.
9. The Magic of Ordinary Days
Air Date: January 2005
Bringing shame to her family’s name following an unwed pregnancy, a young woman is quickly and quietly married to a farmer and sent to live with him so as to hide her shame. The setting is post-WWII and stars Keri Russell.
10. Remember Sunday
Air Date: April 2013
Headlining this is one of our favorite Gilmore Girls, Alexis Bledel. She stars as a woman who meets a guy (Zachary Levi) whose memory is no longer than the span of a day. Think 50 First Dates, only with a softer, more emotional spin.
11. Rose Hill
Air Date: April 1997
Though the story isn’t anything particularly hard-hitting, I always liked this sweet story of a band of orphan boys who discover a baby and wind up forming their own family to raise her. The story spans several years as we watch Rose grow up and stars a young Jennifer Garner.
12. The Russell Girl
Air Date: January 2008
Keeping the Kleenex box handy is likely needed for this drama. A family story about a career girl who returns home to her small town where she once fled following a tragedy. She returns keeping a secret of her own. The cast is one impressive name after another including Amber Tamblyn, Paul Wesley, Tim DeKay and Jennifer Ehle (yes, Lizzie Bennet from A&E’s Pride and Prejudice).
13. Sarah, Plain and Tall
Air Date: February 1998
A classic in its own right, this needs no introduction. The iconic story is about a woman who agrees to marry a widower with two children. Glenn Close plays Sarah, and Christopher Walken, Jacob.
14. The Secret Garden
Air Date: November 1987
Any of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s adapted works has been a delight. To this day, I do believe this adaptation is my favorite of the popular children’s literature. Plus, if you pay close attention, you’ll see a cameo of a young Colin Firth in the film’s closing scene, and you may spy a familiar filming location to that of ITV’s popular Downton Abbey.
15. The Valley of Light
Air Date: January 2007
WWII is the setting for this quiet drama. Like with many on this list, it follows a love story between a returning veteran and a widow. A deaf child also has a prominent storyline.
Fifteen is a small number of the films Hallmark Hall of Fame’s collection has inspired over its many years on television. Among those listed above, viewers will find something for everyone. True stories for those who like to be inspired; swoon-worthy gestures sure to sweep the romantic among us off our feet; and of course, those of us who enjoy period dramas will spot several of those among these numbers. No matter which of Hallmark’s signature collection you have seen, will see or wish to re-live, you’re sure to be entertained by something wonderful. Many of these films are available on Feeln – a new family oriented streaming site.
Which Hallmark Hall of Fame films do you like best? Comment below with thoughts on any of these or share what you like best about your favorites.
Photos: Hallmark / Crown Media